Accusations of “greenwashing” can lead to irreversible damage to reputation and consumer trust, and with environmental social governance (ESG) now high on the agenda for public and private organizations worldwide, it’s changing how many retailers think about their businesses.
In addition to the products and services they offer, retailers are reconsidering the environmental and social impacts of their supply chains, employee activity and even which partners they choose to work with in an effort to fulfill a moral obligation to their consumers — especially the younger generation. In fact, according to a recent consumer insights survey from Etika, which explored the attitudes of young people in the UK toward the environmental and social impact of financial products, 80% of young people look for ethical endorsements when making purchasing decisions.
So what strategies can merchants put in place to ensure that both sides of the retail exchange are getting what they need and support sustainable practices? And how can POS finance fit into the equation?
Embracing ESG, Avoiding Greenwashing and Attracting New Customers
To encompass ESG and stand out from competitors, not only do retailers need to care about sustainable packaging, green supply chains, ethically sourced raw materials and social governance around manufacturing, but they also need to honestly promote sustainable practices to attract customers.
From a supply chain perspective, it is important that merchants choose to work with suppliers and manufacturers that can guarantee sustainably sourced materials and environmentally responsible production processes. Internally, investments should be made into educational programs at all levels of the organization to ensure that senior-level employees can lead by example and junior-level employees can be proactive with their sustainability efforts. This can be implemented by setting sales targets and individual performance goals that align with the company’s overall ESG program.
There are also many new technologies that can facilitate communication, information sharing and awareness raising among suppliers, retailers and consumers. Internet of Things (IoT) technology can collect data that provides valuable insights for customer communications; AI can analyze supply chain information to improve transparency and optimize decision-making; and machine learning (ML) algorithms can be used to predict trends and potential issues.
POS Finance and Climate-Conscious Buying Habits
While these changes can go a long way toward tackling and reducing greenwashing accusations, retailers should not ignore the impact of choosing the right partners — including when it comes to finance.
The social and environmental impacts of financial products and institutions still often suffer from a negative public perception. In fact, according to our recent consumer insights survey, only 29% of young people trust financial institutions to act ethically, and only 39% of young people would be surprised if they found out a financial institution they held a product with was found to be acting unethically. In addition, 93% of young people are more likely to choose a financial institution that strictly invested in ethical programs.
With this growing demand from customers for socially responsible and ethical ways of doing business, it’s clear that finance companies that only pay lip service to ESG will likely suffer the loss of customers, revenues and partnerships. To meet this demand and prove their credentials to potential merchant partners, I believe that finance companies need to be more vocal about their attitudes toward environmental and social issues as well as the positive changes that they are implementing.
Finance providers can play an important role in supporting responsible buying habits. By being inclusive, honest and selective with our partners, we can help to support customers to include more sustainable purchases in their budget.
Robert Schuijff is the CEO of Etika and a renowned tech leader with a mission to make a positive difference in the world of finance. With operations in Australia and the UK, fairer finance provider Etika is improving access to affordable lending with its unique business model of being both a platform provider and finance provider. Under Schuijff’s leadership, Etika has become a stand-out POS finance pioneer, striking the right balance between agile tech innovation and people-focused ethical lending principles.